Vikings assistant head coach and offensive adviser Gary Kubiak said there is no longer any question about who will start at center for the team this season. It will be first-round draft pick Garrett Bradbury.
“Oh yeah, that is where he’s going to be, and hopefully he will stay there for a long time,” Kubiak said.
The 24-year coaching veteran, a Super Bowl winner as a head coach with three more championships as an assistant, said there’s no question it will be a challenge for Bradbury.
“He is doing great. For a rookie to be put in there at center from Day 1, it’s hard on him,” Kubiak said. “But he is doing a good job.”
Of course, this will be the second time in three seasons that the Vikings have had a rookie at center. Pat Elflein started there in 2017 but has moved to guard.
Elflein has been the center for every snap of his pro career, 863 snaps last year and 958 during his rookie campaign.
Still, Kubiak said the change to guard has been a positive one, and Elflein has been open to the move.
“Pat has moved over to left guard and been a big-time pro, stepped in there and working really hard,” he said. “The guys are working good together.”
And the feeling around the Vikings is that those moves, in addition to adding free agent Josh Kline, should make for a more complete and balanced line this season. That means the team’s main priority in the offseason has been addressed.
“They’re doing good,” Kubiak said. “We have to keep them all in one piece, but we’re doing good.”
Does he believe this group can help improve the run game after last year produced one of the worst rushing seasons in club history?
“We better be able to run it,” Kubiak said. “Obviously we want to be physical and run the ball, and if we do that we’ll have a chance to make some plays.”
New system gets first reps
With OTAs ending this past week and the team’s mandatory minicamp running Tuesday to Thursday, the Vikings are getting their first look at a new offensive system under the guidance of offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, with Kubiak having a lot of input.
The offensive coaching staff has changed drastically. Stefanski, Kubiak, Klint Kubiak (quarterbacks), Rick Dennison (offensive line), Brian Pariani (tight ends) and Drew Petzing (wide receivers) are all taking on new roles.
“It is going good. We’re working hard,” Gary Kubiak said. “The guys are working well.”
When it comes to getting used to the offense, Kubiak said a big benefit is that the unit has to learn against such a strong defensive team.
“We’re making some plays and we’re going against a great defense every day,” he said. “You know our defense is a hell of a defense, run by Coach Zim [Mike Zimmer], and so we get our work cut out for us, but it’s making us better.
“We’re challenged every day by who we go against in practice with our defense, but it has been good.”
Does Kubiak feel like this is a complete overhaul of the offense for a team that finished 19th in scoring offense and 20th in total offense in 2018?
“I wouldn’t say that,” he said. “I would say we’re taking a bunch of different concepts from different places that I have been doing it for a while, Kevin has been doing it, we’re trying to get it all meshed and have a good Minnesota Vikings offense.”
This is an interesting arrangement, having a Super Bowl-winning head coach working underneath a first-time offensive coordinator. Said Kubiak: “We’re working good, doing just fine. He’s a hell of a coach and I’m just trying to help him out.”
Cousins getting comfortable
When OTAs were getting underway, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins talked about his hopes and expectations in working with a rookie center, especially when the team is going to have such high expectations.
“I [told Garrett], ‘I’d like to have you and I work together for about the next decade, if that’s OK with you,’ ” Cousins said. “So, we’ll see what happens, but that would be my goal and, I think, the organization’s goal. I just tried to set that vision for him to say, ‘You be the guy here for the next 10 years, and let’s not have to worry about having anybody else snap for the quarterback.’ ”
Kubiak said that Cousins is improving in the new offensive system and in working with Bradbury.
“He is doing really good,” Kubiak said. “We have thrown a lot at him and he’s working hard and making strides.”
Cousins said last week that so far he thinks the team is taking to the offense.
“Even though things are a little new and there are some changes, hopefully it won’t have an impact early in the year in a negative way,” he said. “I don’t think it will. But you know, there is no doubt that in some plays I’m breaking the huddle looking back at the coaches going, ‘Now what do you want the read to be here?’ or ‘Versus this coverage you still want me to work here?’ You’re still asking those questions, and that’s what OTAs are all about.”
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